Islandbridge, July 2014.
A party of London Irishmen, including the Association Chairman, Peter Lough, attended the Royal British Legion's Annual Ceremony of Remembrance and Wreath Laying at The National War Memorial Gardens, Islandbridge in Dublin.
Comune of Piedimonte Etneo, 27th July 2014.
A quite remarkable series of events took place recently in the Municipality of Piedimonte Etneo in commemoration of the men of the two battalions of the London Irish Rifles who served in Sicily during the summer of 1943. In particular, the community remembered the men of the 1st Battalion (1 LIR), who stayed in Piedimonte Etneo for 33 days from 8th September to 11th October 1943.
The Battalion's war diaries noted that Piedimonte was "the most comfortable place the battalion had been in since they left England", and the Regimental History said: "In search of a less malarious area, a move was made inland to Piedimonte, a small town at the north-east foot of Mount Etna. It had not been much damaged, and the inhabitants welcomed the London Irish warmly....Loos Day was observed at Piedimonte with a parade and service. A local composer wrote a tune for the pipes, though the battalion was still without most of the instruments, which were in the luggage on a later convoy. This prompted the Commanding Officer to declare that on any future invasion the pipes and drums would be in the first flight."
In the morning, the Municipality's Town Council unanimously voted to confer "Honorary Citizenship" on the Regimental Association's President, Major General Purdon, and Chairman, Major Peter Lough, and the Mayor of Piedimonte Etneo, Dr Ignazio Puglisi, passed over framed scrolls of Honorary Citizenship to Richard O'Sullivan, who was representing the Regimental Association.
In his speech of commendation, the President of the Town Council, Dr Alfio Palazzolo said:
"In that period when the First Battalion of the London Irish Rifles stayed in our town there were many instances of mutual help among the troops and the population. This is largely documented in war diaries that report the flattering opinions on our townspeople. Many more episodes remain sculpted in our fellow citizens’ memories. They have never forgotten these times, despite only being children back then. Today, these memories and interviews make an important contribution in shedding light on an important chapter in the history of our community..."
Following the meeting of the Town Council, there was a procession to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary where a short commemorative ceremony was held at the town's monument.
Later in the day, a conference at the Capuchin Convent was held to share memories of the wartime period, which included personal accounts from the townspeople of Piedimonte Etneo. The conference was moderated by Giuseppe Pagano and Dr Felice Vito Vitale with historian Rosario Raciti reviewing the whole period of conflict in Sicily. Over two hundred people packed into the convent courtyard to watch a visual documentary, which included some particular evocative testimonies from those who had witnessed the events of 1943. Some remembered the London Irish Rifles' Pipers entering the town wearing what was described at the time as 'orange skirts' and there was a very amusing story about the possible 'shared' identity of General Montgomery and 1 LIR's Second in Command 'Monty' Stopford.
A quite memorable day might be best summed up by Dr Palazzolo with his concluding words to the Town Council:
"..I am confident that we will strengthen the thread of memory that links us to that period together and make sure it does not break, and pass the baton on to the younger generations so that they may discover an unreleased page of our history, so they may keep the memory alive."
Additional thanks of the Regimental Association are due to Charlotte Luisa Abraham who provided a most excellent translation and interpreting service throughout the whole day.
Click below to see more photographs:
Annual Reunion Lunch, 2014.
We were delighted that Association President, Major General Corran Purdon, and his wife Jean were able to attend this year's Annual Reunion Lunch at Connaught House.
The gathered members enjoyed a most stimulating and enlightening key note speech from former D Company OC, Brigadier Jeremy Mooney, who highlighted the opportunities for the London Irish Rifles going forward as well as emphasising the continuing hard work required to maintain the proud tradition of the Regiment within the evolving Army Reserve.
A further notable event took place at the lunch when Arctic Explorer, Roan Hackney, passed over to Major General Purdon a previously misplaced Military General Service Medal, which had been awarded to a member of the 83rd Foot with clasps showing 12 battle honours from the Napoleonic War.
The lunch had taken place after a successful Annual General Meeting, which was able to confirm the adoption of the updated Rules and Regulations of the Association as well as elect a new Band President, Captain Rob Denman.
At the AGM, the Association Chairman, Peter Lough, also reconfirmed the plans for the 100th anniversary visit to Loos during September 2015 and hopeed that a large number of Association Members would be able to attend.
Pilgrimage to Italy, May 2014.
A quite memorable week of pilgrimage was recently spent in commemoration of the actions of both battalions of the London Irish Rifles during the Italian campaign of 1943 to 1945.
A group of London Irishmen and Royal Fusiliers, with the assured guidance of Captain Bob Keating, combined emotional commemorative events and evocative battlefield review with a few days of relaxation on the beach at Sperlonga.
Special mention should be made of the three Second World War veterans in the party: Robert Randall, John Dudley and Tony Iacoppi, as well as the fantastic piping of Pipe Sergeant Robert Williams and fine bugling of Mark Goatcher.
A highlight of the week was the opportunity for the veterans to meet with His Royal Highness Prince Harry at a British Embassy Remembrance event at Cassino CWGC Cemetery.
Other remarkably moving occasions included a reception at Casa Sinagoga, the focus of the 2nd Battalion's attack on the Gustav Line on 16th May 1944, and a battlefield review of the Anzio 'Wadis' where the 1st Battalion spent a bitterly contested few weeks during February and March 1944.
We certainly look forward to our next pilgrimage with great anticipation..
Click below to see photos from the week in Italy:
St Patrick's Day - March 2014
A glorious (dictionary definition: 'having a striking beauty or splendour that evokes feelings of delighted admiration') Sunday of wall to wall sunshine accompanied a splendid day of St Patrick's Day commemorations at Connaught House.
The Honorary Colonel of the London Irish Rifles, Sir Sebastian Roberts, distributed shamrock to members of D Company, the Association, cadets from 71 Detachment and the Regimental Pipes and Drums.
Following the parade, the Pipers continued to play in the warm sunshine before the alternative attractions of tasty oriental fare and a libation or two drew the ranks of newly bronzed London Irishmen and their families towards non martial pursuits..
All in all, a very excellent day was enjoyed by everyone who attended.. and we look forward to seeing you again at future events.
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